When the Acadia Cafe began offering beer tasting flights two years ago, Jeff Radnich wasn’t concerned so much about profit as education. “It’s kind of a long-term deal,” says the co-owner of the bar and grille in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that serves 27 draft beers. “We’re right next to the University of Minnesota, so we have a lot of students who are just getting to know what good beer is.” The flight program offers six four-ounce pours in different beer styles: local ($8), domestic ($10) and import ($14). “The flights offer an easy way to sample and learn about several beer styles at once,” Radnich says “In the end, we hope it brings them back to try more of the taps.”
The most popular is local. “Most customers,” Radnich says, “whether they live in town or not, want to sample the local flavor. Plus, it’s the cheapest flight.” Kip Snider, director of beverage for Southern California-based Yard House Tap Room, which has 32 restaurants in 10 states, also stresses the educational aspects of the chain’s flight program. The taster flight, called a six-pack and selling for $8.95, gives customers six five-ounce pours that vary by location and change every Tuesday. “It’s always been a great tool for us,” Snider says.
So much, in fact, that the Yard House is now offering Belgium six-packs at $11.95 for six 3 1/2-ounce pours (smaller servings because of the higher alcohol content), which will rotate every six months. “The Belgian six-pack has gone through the roof,” Snider says. The flights focus on “what we’re here for,” Snider says. “And we’re here to train our customers as much as possible and have them learn about beer styles and the opportunities there.” Of every guest that tries a sampler, Snider says, one or two will go on to order a regular-size beer from the offering. “The profit is less than just pouring a pint,” Radnich says, “but the customer will usually find something in the flight that they love, and that brings them back looking for more. Plus, it’s fun to sample many things at once, and there’s something to be said for the experience.”